My sister, Rachel, is a third grade teacher and yesterday was her school district’s last day before summer break, which got me to thinking about my third grade experience…
I remember third grade like it was yesterday. I went to Los Alamitos elementary school and my teacher was Mrs. Compton and that’s where I met and fell in love with my elementary school crush, John Germaine. My math teacher was Mrs. LeBlanc and I learned multiplication and division that year. I joined my first competitive soccer team, the Almaden Express, where I met my best friend, Whitney Reyes. It was also the year I quit Girl Scouts, claiming I had “too much homework and soccer practice.” It was a great year.
Like any child, the last week of school was always my favorite, when activities consisted solely of getting your crush to sign your yearbook, cleaning your desk, attending pizza and ice cream parties, and planning your endless summer vacation.
Now that third grade is a mere 16 years ago (WHAT???), I find myself relating more to the adults in this situation. Summer vacation must be a NIGHTMARE for parents.
Sure, kids can occupy themselves for the first two weeks of summer and if you’re lucky, they’re involved in a swim team or a day camp for the duration of summer… But after that?! Kids get restless and suddenly YOU’RE responsible for providing them endless amounts of entertainment for the rest of the summer! Unless you’re like my parents and you have five children so they can entertain each other and run around like animals in the neighborhood and you just blow your whistle to make them come home when dinner is ready… But if you’re not out of your mind, you’re going to need activities to do with them… And what better way to entertain a child than to create something together in the kitchen? Something that is simple, traditional, and representative of an American summer… Something like Golden Grahams S’mores Bars.
Like most Americans, I have an affinity with s’mores. I like them in their traditional form, maybe with an added Reese’s Cup for good measure, but I love them in the form of ice cream, cookies, bars, Oreos, tarts, cakes, cheesecakes, Starbucks Frappuccinos, and basically whatever else I can get my hands on. I’ve made so many different variations of s’mores that I’ve lost count, so naturally, when I saw this original Betty Crocker recipe, I was very intrigued. So intrigued that I packed a box of Golden Grahams, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and corn syrup in my suitcase so I could make them in Italy.
These Golden Grahams S’mores Bars are more or less a variation of the original Rice Krispies Treats, replacing the crisped rice cereal with Golden Grahams and melting chocolate chips into the marshmallow mixture. I was planning on eating the entire pan myself because Tony claims he hates Rice Krispies Treats, but even he couldn’t keep his paws off of these treats. They were so good, so simple and easy to make, and they don’t require an oven! I mean, if Tony can help in the kitchen, than your eight-year-old can help too!
Golden Grahams S’mores Bars recipe by Betty Crocker:
8 cups Golden Grahams™ cereal
5 cups miniature marshmallows
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
¼ cup light corn syrup
5 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup miniature marshmallows, if desired
1 cup milk chocolate chips
- In a large mixing bowl, measure cereal. Butter 13×9-inch pan. In a large saucepan melt 5 cups marshmallows, the chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter, stirring often until melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla.
- Pour over cereal; quickly toss until completely coated. Stir in 1 cup of marshmallows and milk chocolate chips.
- Press mixture evenly in pan, using buttered back of spoon. Let stand uncovered at least 1 hour, or refrigerate if you prefer a firmer bar. Store loosely covered at room temperature up to 2 days.
Happy Monday! I am a very happy camper today because tomorrow I am headed home to California for the week! Activities on the itinerary include spending time with family, hunting/confirming a wedding venue, ravaging the farmers’ market for rhubarb, pluots, apriums, and other seasonal California produce, laying out by the pool, drinking Peet’s iced lattes, and celebrating Memorial Day with a family BBQ!
Growing up in California, there’s kind of an unwritten rule that every child must participate in the summer league swim team. Our cabana club, Oaktree, is right across the street from our house and ever since I could remember, I have spent every single day of every single summer at that pool… Usually making up excuses to not participate at swim team practice.
Oaktree is where I learned to swim and then a few years later had to be rescued by the lifeguard on duty– I’m still the only person in Oaktree history to ever have been “rescued.” It’s the place where my sister, Rachel, and I spent every day from 12-6PM in the summer sun, annoying lifeguards with our nonstop presence, riding our bikes into the pool, taking showers in the pool, and performing our rendition of TLC’s “Waterfalls,” complete with us standing on plastic chairs in the pool to pretend like we were levitating… Oaktree is where my siblings and I cashed in on our lucrative car wash, lemonade, coffee, smoothie, and baked good businesses… Which leads me to the “pool hill,” where we would pretend to play “Doctor” by making homemade remedies with plant sap, flowers, and dirt and eventually would try to hang out with Caitlin and her friends in the summer evenings. Safe to say, Oaktree holds a special place in my heart.
Since I’m headed home tomorrow, I was feeling nostalgic and I wanted to bake something reminiscent of my childhood summers. Every morning on our way to the pool we would pass under my neighbor’s cherry trees and since we were typically walking to the pool in the summer months, the trees were always in bloom and there were always smashed cherries all along the sidewalk. I was set on making Cherry Pie, but truthfully, I didn’t want to pit all of those cherries and I’m not entirely crazy about cherries so I made Cherry Clafoutis instead. Cherry Clafoutis is a rustic and classic French dessert full of fresh cherries and covered in a thick, custardy, flan-like batter. It’s great for both breakfast and dessert and can be whipped up in no time at all! Perfect for an easy Memorial Day dessert!
Buttermilk Cherry Clafoutis by The Bite-Sized Baker:
16 ounces fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
Powdered sugar, for dusting
- To make the clafoutis, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch pie dish generously with butter and arrange cherries in the bottom. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs lightly and then add sugar until mixture is a pale yellow. Add buttermilk and vanilla and whisk until just combined. Add flour and sea salt and whisk until smooth. Pour batter into pie dish over cherries. Bake in oven until a skewer inserted into batter comes out clean and a golden brown crust has formed on top and bottom of clafoutis, about 45 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Last weekend, Tony, Louie, and I packed our bags and made the 6-hour journey from Florence to the Amalfi Coast. I have wanted to visit the Amalfi Coast ever since I first saw pictures of the colorful little town built on cliffs and overlooking the turquoise sea, but the drive was rather daunting and we always opted for shorter drives or flights elsewhere… So when Tony told me a few weeks ago that he had business outside of Naples, we made the most of it and planned a weekend in Positano.
Typically travel blogs will tell you the best time to go is in September, when the weather is still nice and the tourists have cleared out, but we lucked out with beautiful weather and minimal crowds on our trip! The easiest way to travel from Florence to the Amalfi Coast is to take the train to Naples and then take a ferry to Positano, but since we were already driving to Naples, we chose to drive the entire 60 kilometer/37 mile strip of the Costiera Amalfitana to the little town of Positano, which was in a word, breathtaking… Well, if we’re being completely honest it was also nauseating… but I get carsick easily.
We arrived in Positano at Hotel Marincanto two hours later after multiple stops along the coastline to take pictures and to dry-heave and catch my breath before I had to endure more twists and turns. I was at a loss for words when looking out over the town of Positano from our hotel. It was unreal… picture perfect! Literally, every single photo you take of Positano will be beautiful, which resulted in 600+ photos from our 3-day trip. We freshened up a bit and left our hotel to explore and enjoy the sunset over beers by the beach. If you’re near the seaside in Italy, always go with Nastro Azzuro, it just tastes like the ocean. For dinner we dined at Le Tre Sorelle, based off of the recommendation of our friends and we feasted on some delicious calamari, seafood, and pizza. Side Note: We have NEVER eaten pizza in Italy since moving to Florence. We had the best pizza of our lives in Naples at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele when we first visited in Italy in October 2012 and we have refused to eat pizza north of Naples ever since… Anyway, I’m a binge eater and I ate three pizzas in the total of three days… Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?!
After dinner we stopped for gelato, where I discovered the best gelato combination ever… Pistachio, Stracciatella, and Cioccolato Bianco (which I also ate three times in three days and really wanted to recreate for the blog, but I’m taking a break from ice cream… wah) and then we drunkenly tried taking photos of the city at night without a tripod, which resulted in 50+ blurry photos. Next time, I will bring a tripod for dusk and dawn photos because the views are incredible!
The next morning we woke up early and enjoyed coffee and croissants on the terrace overlooking the sea and got ready for our hike. We planned on venturing to one of the most famous trails in Positano, the “Sentiero degli Dei” (Path of the Gods), where you will come across amazing views of the Amalfi and freshly made lemonade stands. From Positano, the easiest way to get to the base of the trail is to take the local bus to Nocelle and then begin your hike, but since we were with Louie and unsure if dogs were allowed, we decided to take the 1,700 stairs from Positano and then begin our hike… At the base of the staircase, we met an older gentleman who graciously pointed us in the right direction, offered advice about our ascent, and offered to take our photo. We also met a local dog, Flipper, who runs free around Positano all day long, who also accompanied us on our journey.
We regularly climb 83 steps to our apartment, but even we weren’t prepared for 1,700 steps!!! By the time we actually got to the trail, I was slightly less enthusiastic than when we first started, but I carried on for a solid 30 minutes before I decided I didn’t really want to spend all day in the mountains. And thank goodness we called it quits when we did because as we were heading back to Positano we passed through Montepertuso and stumbled across La Tagliata.
I had done my typical research prior to visiting Positano and I knew about La Tagliata, but I wrote it off because it is slightly a trek from the center of town so when we walked past it after 3 hours of hiking, I was thrilled, to say the least. We arrived just as they were opening for lunch and luckily, they had space for us as every other table was reserved! We were hungry, but this meal was truly the best meal of our trip, quite possibly one of the best meals we’ve had in Italy! It is a family-operated restaurant and the menu depends on what’s available in the garden. It’s like eating at your Italian grandma’s house… Oh, and you also have the most amazing views of the coastline.
We started our meal with a bottle of wine and bruschetta on this thick, toasted, grainy bread and then they brought out buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, olives, eggplant parmigiana, frittata, various vegetables, and beans and chickpeas cooked with pancetta… All of it was fresh and delightful. Our next course was a mix of pasta… There was a zucchini-ricotta gemelli, ravioli in a summer squash sauce, some lasagna type pasta in a red sauce, and gnocchi in red sauce. I was crazy about this gnocchi! I normally never eat gnocchi, because it’s always so heavy, but unlike the United States, gnocchi is made without eggs in Italy so they are light little fluffy clouds! Gosh, that gnocchi was amazing. After pasta we were pretty full, but they brought out a platter of grilled meats, where the chef was grilling over an open flame at the side of the restaurant, so we obviously had to try that too. Last but not least, they brought out dessert, which was a mix of pear and ricotta crostata, torta di Nonna, and cream puffs covered in chocolate and pistachio. Besides the delicious food and great views, the price was unbeatable, 79 euro for everything! We were pretty exhausted after our hike, lunch, and (second) hike back to Positano so we just relaxed at our hotel and went out for more gelato that night and then we enjoyed one last breakfast on the terrace the next morning before beginning our journey back to Florence.
Overall, our first visit to Amalfi Coast was an absolute dream! I understand why it’s so popular in the summer because it truly does not disappoint and despite people foreboding not to visit in the summer months, we will actually be returning in July when my sister is visiting and I already can’t wait! Can you tell by how many times I said amazing??? Until next time, Positano!
Stay tuned for next week’s adventure… Lake Como, Italy! If you want to keep up to date with my daily happenings and adventures, follow me on Instagram, @thebitesizedbaker. #shamelessselfpromoting
For the past few months my good friend Lara, whom I introduce to everyone as “the girl who speaks eight languages,” and I have participated in “Baking Wednesdays,” and sometimes “Blogging Thursdays” when it’s a two-day job. Anyone that is willing to walk around the entire city in search of Guinness beer and waffle cones, style food, and help critique photos for 5+ hours is a friend for life, in my opinion!
It saddens me to say that Lara is moving back to Munich this week and I am pretty much depressed. Also, because now I can’t always use her as my translator when talking to strangers… Thankfully we have many mini trips planned across Europe in the next few months, which I’ll get to posting eventually!
Lara and I are both chocolate people. Whenever I go out for ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, frozen custard, etc., I always go with a chocolate flavor combination… If I wanted something fruity, I would make a smoothie... Seeing how this will be my third ice cream post in the past month and I am in full mode ice cream making season, I found it rather alarming that I have NEVER made a chocolate-based ice cream in all of my years of making ice cream!
Since this past Wednesday was our last Baking Wednesday we wanted to make something epic… and we decided for our last baking day, we would need to make a chocolate ice cream. We exchanged ideas about German Chocolate Cake, Rocky Road, Peanut Butter and Chocolate among others, but we ultimately landed on a simple and classic Dark Chocolate Ice Cream. Sometimes simplicity is best.
This is a simple, straight-forward recipe and compared to last week’s Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt it is a breeze to make! Thank goodness, because I don’t like waiting for ice cream. It is an ultra creamy, smooth, rich, full of chocolate, and fudge-like ice cream.. Think truffle meets mousse. The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate (55% to 70%), but I think you could get away with an even higher cocoa percentage like 85% to get a truly dark chocolate ice cream while only slightly compromising the sweetness.
I promise, I will eventually get around to posting recipes other than ice cream, but for now I am just having too much fun with my ice cream machine… and also because my pants are getting too tight.
The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home:
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup brewed coffee
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (55% to 70%), finely chopped
Ice Cream Base:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- To make the chocolate syrup, combine the cocoa, coffee, and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir the syrup until smooth. Set aside.
- To make the ice cream, mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese, warm chocolate syrup, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes precisely. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
- Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and begin to spin the ice cream until thick and creamy.
- Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least four hours.
When I was younger, my mom would host afternoon tea parties for all of the neighborhood ladies and their children. She would dust off her old wedding china and serve tea for the ladies and hot chocolate for the kids in fancy teapots alongside crustless sandwiches, quiches, shortbread cookies, lemon squares, scones, lemon curd, and preserves. It was during those tea parties that I developed my high expectation for scones…
My mom has maybe a handful of staple recipes at her disposal… Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Millionaire Bars, Russian Teacakes, and Buttermilk Scones. Don’t get me wrong— my mom is one of my biggest influences as to why I love baking, but exploring and developing recipes isn’t her forte. But scones? Her simple, moist, modestly sweet, and delicate Buttermilk Scones with Lemon Curd? Well, that is one of her greatest baking feats to date. If you are able to eat a warm scone fresh out of the oven, be proud, because you’ve just had one of the best homemade treats of your life. I have known many friends to gobble them up in little Buttermilk Scone-Lemon Curd sandwiches… I’m looking at you, Jenna and Tony.
I had planned on making Buttermilk Scones and Lemon Curd for the upcoming holiday weekend, but then I discovered Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams new spring flavor, Lemon Buttermilk Tart Frozen Yogurt with swirls of lemon curd and pieces of shortbread crust mixed throughout and it sounded a bit magical… even more magical when made with pieces of my mom’s Buttermilk Scones.
Like the Brambleberry Crisp Ice Cream I made last year, there wasn’t an exact recipe in either of her cookbooks for this flavor, but after surveying three different flavors of ice cream (Lemon Cream Ice Cream, Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt, and Lemon Frozen Yogurt), I created something that I think is pretttty spectacular for Easter and spring in general.
I used Jeni’s original recipe for Lemon Frozen Yogurt, but substituted buttermilk for milk to make the frozen yogurt extra creamy, tangy, and tart. I then followed Jeni’s recipe for Lemon Curd, which uses extra lemon juice to ensure the curd doesn’t lose its tartness when frozen and calls for cornstarch so the curd remains intact when swirled into the frozen yogurt. Last but not least, I crumbled my mom’s scones into the frozen yogurt in lieu of shortbread pieces because after all, I was inspired by my mom’s tea parties…
If you’re looking for a fun treat to share with family and friends for the holiday or simply to celebrate the new spring season look no further! It’s spring in a scoop; it’s bright, refreshing, and full of tart lemony flavors!
Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt inspired/adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and my Mom:
Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt:
1 quart plain low-fat yogurt
1½ cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
½ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
Zest from 1 lemon (reserved from below)
2 to 3 lemons
3 tablespoons sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup granulated sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
¾ cup lemon juice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
Buttermilk Scones (This is the original recipe, which will leave you with lots of leftovers after crumbling 1 or 2 into your ice cream. You’ll want extras!):
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter or margarine, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Buttermilk Scone Glaze:
2 tablespoons heavy cream
- To make the frozen yogurt base, fit a sieve over a bowl and line it with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to drain. While the yogurt is draining make lemon curd and buttermilk scones. Once the yogurt is drained, discard the liquid, and measure out 1¼ cups of the drained yogurt; set aside.
- To make the lemon curd, put the yolks and cornstarch in a medium bowl and mix until completely smooth. Add the sugar, zest, and juice and blend well. Pour into a 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until it begins to simmer (7 to 10 minutes). Allow to simmer for 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, one cube at a time, until melted and smooth. Pour the curd into a bowl and press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skim from forming. Chill completely, about 2 hours, in the refrigerator. The curd will keep for up to 2 weeks.
- To make the buttermilk scones, preheat oven to 325 degrees F and add flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. While the food processor is running, add butter one cube at a time and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand (about 1 minute). Continue running food processor and add buttermilk and heavy cream and mix until the dough starts to come together and pull away from the sides (about 1 minute). On a floured surface, roll the dough out to ½-inch thickness and cut with a floured round cookie cutter. Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet.
- To make the buttermilk scone glaze, mix egg and heavy cream in a small bowl and brush the tops of the scones with glaze and bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool and then select 1 or 2… or 3 ugly scones to crumble into your ice cream. Enjoy the rest with a cup of tea! While the scones are cooling make the lemon syrup.
- To make the lemon syrup, using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest in large strips from 1 lemon; reserve for the frozen yogurt (leave the zest in large strips so it’s easier to strain out later). Juice enough of the lemons to make ½ cup. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- To make the frozen yogurt, mix about 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Combine the remaining buttermilk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes precisely. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the reserved 1 ¼ cups drained yogurt and the lemon syrup and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and begin to spin the frozen yogurt until thick and creamy.
- Pack the ice cream into a storage container alternating with layers of lemon curd and crumbled buttermilk scone pieces. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least four hours.